Garrick Morgenweck – Wanderlust

Garrick’s career in the military triggered his passion for photography as he wanted to document the real and raw moments in combat zones. Check out his inspiring story below.


Say hello to Garrick:

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Where are you from?  Where have you been?

I am really from a lot of different places as I consider wherever I am currently living at to be home, but I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. I have traveled all over the globe. I have been to Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Canada, several places in Europe and the United States, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. I have driven the entire length of the ALCAN highway from Fairbanks, Alaska to Dothan, Alabama and have circumnavigated the globe at least once.


What’s your favorite place in the world?

Currently, I would say my favorite place in the world is in Cambodia. The place is exotic and exciting almost every day. The people are extremely inviting, warm, and enjoy telling you about their life. They always have a smile on their face. It also has some of the best examples of Hindu/Buddhist temples in the world in the Angkor complexes near Siem Reap and a deep history worth exploring.

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What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?

I generally prefer the genre of Documentary Photography, or photojournalism. One of the long term projects I hope to be able to accomplish is an in-depth look at the people that make up the MEDEVAC crews in the U.S. Army. I know they get a lot of “news coverage,” but no one has dug into what makes these men and women tick. I mean really “dug in” – followed them and their lives, private and work-related. It takes a certain grit to willingly get into an unarmed helicopter and fly into a gunfight with RPGs and small arms fire to rescue wounded soldiers, civilians, and enemy combatants. Not to mention, the families.

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I really want to get into conflict photography though, and tell the stories of those involved in conflicts of many different types. I think it’s important that people are heard, and their stories are told.  It’s the only way we learn and grow as a society and community.


How would you describe your visual style?

I am not really sure, honestly. Aren’t we as artists always developing our style? I would say a lot of my work in black and white tends to reflect my start in film from many years ago. It’s a pretty simple style with only a few small edits and pretty straightforward. I don’t use Photoshop a lot except in my personal conceptual work. I try for natural color and an image that reflects my visual and emotional state at the time I saw it. I always look for a way to tell a story or juxtapose some condition or element in the frame.


How has your military career influenced your photography?

It was the military that actually started me back into photography and nurtured the passion that has allowed it to grow. I was in Afghanistan in 2011, on my third tour, and I realized there was a lot on the news, but not a lot of the “real” conflict and country. I decided I wanted to document my personal experiences in the combat zone for my children and grandchildren. I was flying MEDEVAC at the time, and bought a Canon G series camera. I spent a lot of time relearning the basics of photography so I could record the landscapes, people, and my personal story. It was my third tour, and I had very little in the way of documents and images from my other two tours to keep for posterity.

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Afghanistan. Both Images were on a Canon G Series in 2011 and were some of my first serious attempts.

Since then, being in the military has influenced the direction I wanted to take. I enjoy telling the stories of the people I come across, and while the military isn’t the most open organization, the stories there abound. I find myself always looking for the other perspective, the untold side of the story.


What response do you hope to evoke from viewers of your work?

Mostly, I hope that people will come to a deeper appreciation and understanding of the people or places in my images, and maybe, just for a moment, consider the other side with an open mind.


What types of photography do you do?  What’s your favorite?

Most of the photography I do is Street or Documentary. Lately, I have been doing more street photography because I haven’t had a lot of time to pursue a photo essay or story. I also really enjoy Travel and Adventure photography. Any chance I get, I travel to an area I have never been in the world or country and just explore. You could say I have a bit of wanderlust and have always been an adrenaline junkie.

My favorite, is the photo essay and documentary story. Getting into the lives of others and seeing the world from a new perspective greatly intrigues me and always draws me in.

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What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?

I would say the moment I decided to become a photographer was at the end of my time in Alaska in 2012. I decided that I wanted to pursue the field as more than a hobbyist, but I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go with it. I started taking it more seriously and I finally took the plunge to enroll in a University BFA program in 2013.


Photography is competitive.  How do you stand out?

Well, I like to say I stand out because of my differing perspective, but I would really like to hear more feedback on this very subject really. It’s one of my most asked questions. I sometimes pick up a commercial contract and I always ask, “What about me made you seek me out?” Generally, the answer I get is that I don’t shoot “staged” or “stock” style images for clients, but use my love of documentary photography to capture their employees, clients, and workplaces in “real, honest situations.”


What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?

Shoot everything. Don’t give into your inner doubt. It takes time and a lot of images to even see small improvements in your work. RAW files are cheap, but just make sure you are consciously shooting the image and going for something, don’t just “spray and pray.” Also, don’t worry so much about the onlookers and strangers and feeling self-conscious. When will you ever see them again? Don’t be worried about making a fool of yourself if you learn from it.


What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?

Be a person. Don’t be a diva and understand the photographer is probably more nervous about making sure you look good professionally than you are.

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Who do you want to give a shoutout to?

One of the biggest, first-hand influences on my career is a photographer we had embedded with us in Afghanistan, Laura Rauch. Her style, professionalism, and ease of interaction convinced me that I could pursue my goal, whether she realized it or not.

I’d also like to give a shout out to Deanna Pietre, my de facto practice model. She’s always interested in trying some new idea, and is pretty patient with my OCD.


What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?

I am far from a Steve McCurry or Ami Vitale, but I do “own” being a photographer. When I am shooting, I am a photographer. I am a professional and working towards a career goal. It helps put me in the proper mindset.


How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?

I mostly shoot candid and environmental portraits, but when I shoot with a model, even in a candid situation, I try to capture that one fleeting moment when they don’t think it matters. When they get the slight sideways look, quirky side smile, or intense stare. I try to find something new about them they might not have realized about themselves before and bring it out.

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What do you think is the biggest thing holding you back in your photography?

Time. There is never enough to pursue my goals, but isn’t that everyone’s problem? I am always splitting my time between my job in the army and finding the time to pursue real, interesting story lines. Secondly, it’s probably my ability to get out and travel like I want to. I would love to find some work for a travel magazine or agency, or perhaps a news outlet.


How do you express yourself through your photography?

I think that my nature comes through more in the small details. I have a somewhat dark sense of humor and often take myself and my job too seriously. I have a feeling that this comes through in a lot of my images in the form of the juxtaposition of elements and subject matter presentation.

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What’s the most inspiring photo you’ve ever seen?

I couldn’t narrow down ONE photo. I would say the FSA projects of the 1930s are a huge inspiration. Evans, Delano, Lange, and Parks are all inspiring in the way they captured real people, not the white washed version of life at the time. In fact, I am currently reviewing a copy of “The Bitter Years” as curated by Edward Steichen. The same goes for Franks and Friedlander.


What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?

I really wish that I had found someone that could have shown me that approaching people isn’t as hard as it seems. Just go up and say “Hi. You’re interesting. I’m a photographer and do you mind if I learn a bit of your story.”


What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?

1. Be Cool. Don’t be the creepy guy with a camera.

2. All life experiences are an exercise in learning. Good, bad, or otherwise. Learn from it, adjust and move on.

3. Use what you have and maximize its potential. All you have is an iPhone 3? Well learn it and shoot the best darned iPhone 3 images anyone has ever seen.


What kind of gear do you have?

I have a Nikon D810, a Nikon D600, a Nikon FTN, a 1956 Ikoflex IA TLR, and a Mamiya RB-67. I also have the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 SP VC USD and the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 SP VC USD as my primary lenses. I have a variety of leaf shutter lenses for the Mamiya and some old AF-D and AiS lenses for the Nikons as well.

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Ikoflex 1a, Delta 100Pro, Novar 75mm

I love shooting with the Mamiya. It takes time and effort to make a good exposure, and it’s a real beast to lug around on travels, but the images from it are just gorgeous.  I shoot 90% of my images on the D810 with the Tamron 24-70 because it’s a great camera in most situations and it gives me the flexibility to capture almost anything at a moment’s notice.


What’s one lighting tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

Invest in at least one remote and transceiver, even for street shooting. It gives you a lot of flexibility in the streets and on scene.

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What’s one post-processing tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

Don’t overdo it. Even minute changes can have a big impact on the final image. Make your edits, step away, and come back 12 hours later and see if your edits still hold up to the story you want to tell. Keep it light, don’t destroy the “truth” of the image with over editing.


Do you have any projects you’d like to show off?

The DUSTOFF Project is my long term project. I am currently working on an image pool. Also, every now and then, I get time to work on my own version of a Star Wars Project, but that’s just for fun.


What has photography done for you as a person?  How has it changed you?

Photography gives me a focus. After my second tour in Iraq and then in Afghanistan, I found I had a lot of issues finding focus. My mind was a bit scattered and I had a hard time picking a direction. Photography allowed me to step out of my shoes, focus on something other than my job, and to relearn how to concentrate. It gives me a moment’s pause and chance to relax, refocus, and concentrate on what it means to be where I am at a given moment. I think it has given me the ability to step out of my shoes and look at a situation from a completely different perspective. It’s given me a way to tell a story and connect with people in a way I was missing before.


What will you be doing five years from now?

Hopefully, achieving my goal of being a photojournalist and conflict photographer, even if I am still in the military – I hope to find a way to get those two things to meet.


What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Hard to say. I have bungee-jumped, skydived, climbed, hiked, and circumnavigated the globe. I’ll try any new adventure at least once. If you ask my wife, she’d probably say most of it is crazy.


What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?

Travel to Iceland and winter over in Antarctica. Both are on my ever expanding Bucket List.


For anyone who wants to get in touch with Garrick, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile

Website: www.mweck.com

Flickr: Profile

500px: Profile

Instagram: @mweck_photo


Garrick, it was an honor – thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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